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Bites: The Burger (and the business) at Three House

This is precisely how not to write a restaurant review.

You start by not spending any specific substantive time on the restaurant’s food. To wit: goop is the new “it” burger. No one focuses on the ground’s provenance or composition anymore, you say; plant-based and alternative forms are so 2019. The Shiddy Burg at Big Kids, the burger at Mini Mott, The Dirty Burg at Loyalist: the sluice is definitely loose. Eat quickly: the center will not hold.

You relent for a paragraph: someone at Three House was clearly paying attention. Its double patty construct deeply understands the blueprint: smash burger + lots and lots of goo. The cheese, caramelized onions, and copious garlic aioli turn the burger into something closer to plasma than a solid: it takes longer to get the burger off your fingers than to consume it.

Okay, another: it’s a very good burger, likely Top Five worthy were it not for The patties are impressively beefy considering how thin and obliterated by the aioli they are; you really want to believe you’re tasting bone marrow but will definitely be able to convince yourself you can taste the brisket in the grind. The edges show the telltale signs of a proper smashing, with crispy lattices extending out from the bun, but that texture is lost to the aioli drip drip; on the plus side, the surfeit of onions topping the burger are positively genius, with a faint sweetness and sourness that would suggest being stewed in beer for a time. Tell them to hold the aioli, even the cheese, and you’re set.

But what you really want to say is this: Three House, for better and likely worse, is the future of restaurants. What, you ask, makes it so exceptional? By design, absolutely nothing. Concept > vibe here: every marker of pre-pandemic retail culture is here, from the all-day café approach (hence the name) to the hip hop played slightly too loud, the $6 matchas, the fried chicken sandwiches, and so on and so on. It’s Starbucks and/or Foxtrot as a fast casual restaurant.

That’s only a partial critique, mind you—it’s hard not to acknowledge how brilliant an idea this is. It’s the logical, inevitable post-pandemic hybrid, combining the convenience and ambivalence underlying our love of delivery apps with quaint notions of a “third space” we can call our own—not quite a restaurant and not quite a coffee shop but with enough traits of both to feel like something people would venture out to for multiple reasons and multiple visits. Even with a limited menu of only 4-6 items available at a given time, Three House seems to have datamined precisely what passersby want to consume and/or take photos of: perfectly bland empanadas (but shoutout to the parsley-forward chimi, positively vegetal), smoothies, fried chicken, smoothies. That the burger is near-exceptional is just clever marketing: have that one thing and be all things.

Which works a lot better in quasi-restaurants than quasi-restaurant reviews, you know?

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